The dairy food group (milk, yogurt, cheese) is an important part of following a healthy diet all year (not just during June).
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products each day for those nine years of age or older, 2.5 cups for children ages four to eight and 2 cups for those two to three years old.
“Consumption of milk and milk products has been linked to improved bone health, particularly in children and adolescents, as well as to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Christeena Haynes, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
According to the National Dairy Council, milk is the main food source in the U.S. diet for calcium, potassium, and vitamin D. It contains phosphorus, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin and magnesium as well.
“It is best to choose fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products because they provide the same nutrients as full fat milk, but with less saturated (unhealthy) fat and calories,” said Haynes.
Consuming more milk and yogurt and less cheese also helps to reduce sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat in the diet.
“It is important for children to drink milk, because it has been shown that people who drink milk when they were young were also more likely to drink it as adults,” said Haynes.
There are low-lactose and lactose-free milk products available for those who are lactose intolerant. Soy milk fortified with calcium and vitamins A and D are another good option for people who cannot consume dairy products because it has a similar nutrient makeup.
To get more dairy in your diet, try making oatmeal and soups with milk instead of water, using yogurt as a dressing for fruit salads, topping baked potatoes with Greek yogurt, making smoothies for snacks and freezing flavored yogurt or pudding as popsicles.
For more information on nutrition issues, go online to http://extension.missouri.edu or contact one of the nutrition and health education specialists working in the Ozarks:Christeena Haynes, (417) 345-7551; or Dr. Pam Duitsman, (417) 886-2059.